The BYU men’s basketball team overcame a slow start and played tough down the stretch to defeat a resilient Dixie State team 96-85 Friday night in the Marriott Center.
“That was a very competitive game,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “I’m pleased that our guys were able to make some key plays down the stretch and win a close game. I think we will be able to see a lot of good things from this game and a lot of things that we need to work on … before we open up against Utah State.”
In the final exhibition game of the season for BYU, the Division II Dixie State Red Storm started off hot, streaking out to an 8-0 lead. Forward Griffon Jones and and center Solomon Jensen led the Red Storm run by scoring the team’s first 20 points, and at one point gave their team a 10-point lead over the Cougars.
BYU eventually settled into a rhythm and kept the game close for the next 10 minutes, cutting Dixie State’s lead to five. With about four minutes remaining in the half, forward Stephen Rogers stole a cross-court pass and threw down a two-handed dunk to cut the Cougar deficit to three. A few plays later, Rogers was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to tie the game at 33. On BYU’s next offensive possession, forward Noah Hartsock hit a shot under the basket to give the Cougars their first lead of the game.
BYU extended its lead to six by the end of the half, and the teams entered the locker rooms with the Cougars leading 41-35.
BYU continued its run to start the second half, extending its lead to 10. Dixie State then stormed back with a 12-0 run to retake the lead, 52-50. The game then went back and forth, with the two teams exchanging the lead multiple times.
With under four minutes remaining and BYU leading 79-78, center Brandon Davies put back a Brock Zylstra miss with a powerful dunk to extend the Cougars’ lead to three and bring the home fans to their feet for the rest of the game.
With one minute to go, Davies crashed the boards again for another offensive rebound and was intentionally fouled. Davies hit both free throws, extending the lead to five. On the ensuing inbound play, Rogers hit a 3-point basket to extend the lead further. Dixie State responded by scoring a quick basket, but Rogers answered back with another 3-pointer, clinching the win for the Cougars.
Rogers’ shots at the end of the game came after an off-shooting first half for him, but his persistence helped him and the Cougars get past the lingering Red Storm.
“At the beginning of the game I wasn’t able to hit hardly any of my shots, and that was kind of frustrating,” Rogers said. “Ever since I got here the coaches have told me to just keep shooting, no matter what the situation. I knew eventually they’d start falling and luckily at the end when we really needed them is when they came.”
As the Cougars head into regular season play, Rose feels this final exhibition game gave the team some character that is needed in tough moments.
“This is really the first game that we’ve played with this group where offensive and defensive possessions at the end of the game were really big for us,” Rose said. “I thought we got some really good execution on the offensive end, Stephen (Rogers) hit a couple really big 3s late and we had a couple of really big offensive rebounds late. … Hopefully this prepared us.”
The Cougars saw balanced scoring once again as Brock Zylstra led the team with 23 points. Davies added 20, Rogers 19 and Hartsock 18. The Red Storm were led by Jones, who ended the game with 26.
BYU hits the court again Nov. 11 as the team travels to Logan to take on in-state rival Utah State.